by Robert Wilkinson
Today is the 66th birthday of one of the great songwriters of the 60s and 70s. His songs are timeless, memorable, and have held up across the decades as has Yusef himself as a powerful voice of conscience, spirituality, and international philanthropy.
Interestingly, Cat Stevens was also a stage name. This remarkable man was born Steven Demetre Georgiou on 21 July 1948. When 18, he took the name of Cat Stevens and wrote some great ones – “First Cut is the Deepest,” “Matthew and Son,” and “Here Comes My Baby,” the last one a huge hit for the Tremeloes.
I’ve taken his bio from Wikipedia and condensed it so you can learn more about this remarkable man of peace.
When his career was taking off, he contracted TB, went into hospital, and as a result of confronting death, “took up meditation, yoga, and metaphysics, and read about other religions; and became a vegetarian. As a result of his serious illness and long convalescence, and as a part of his spiritual awakening and questioning, he wrote as many as forty songs, many of which would appear on his albums in years to come.”
After being bought and sold in the music industry for a number of years, he almost drowned in Malibu in 1976, and shortly after that converted to Islam. He retired from music for about 20 years, with one of his final appearances in 1979 for UNICEF’s International Year of the Child concert in Wembley. Since then, he’s funded schools, famine relief, and supports orphans all over the world.
Though some political elements tried to make him a scapegoat for and target of Islamophobia, Yusef persevered and was subsequently awared the “Man of Peace” award from the private Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Committee. He returned to music in the 90s, and since then has embraced performing for some global charities, as well as re-enter the world of commercial music, but on terms harmonious with his faith.
For your enjoyment, the amazing songs and voice of Yusef!
From his first album, "Mona Bone Jakob" a live performance of his first hit,“Katmandu.” (No this is NOT the Bob Seger version!)
From his pop music era, several from his first two albums. We begin with a live performance at the Royal Albert Hall by Yusuf of “First Cut is the Deepest.”
From Germany in 2011, Yusuf live doing “First Cut is the Deepest.”
An early clip of a very young Cat Stevens! From 1966, a live lip-synched German performance of his smash #2 hit, “Matthew and Son.”
We'll close this early period with a rare gem! Here's Cat doing a live performance in 1967 from a rave up off of "New Masters," "Bad Night."
From the album “Tea for the Tillerman,” more than a few amazing tunes!
First, a live performance courtesy of the BBC of "Wild World.” And because it's so out there, here's Yusuf and Peter Gabriel at the 2003 Nelson Mandela's AIDS Day Concert performing a fantastic a cappella version of “Wild World.”
This is one of the best I've ever seen in terms of sheer passion! Here's a phenomenally great live performance from the 1976 Earth Tour featuring Cat on piano of “Sad Lisa.”
Also from that Earth Tour 76 in 1976 when he was at his peak, live performances of three more of his best from that singularly great album.
Now some tunes from the album “Teaser and the Firecat.”
Here’s a great live performance of "Peace Train.”
For the entire 43 minute concert, here’s Cat Stevens Live at the BBC 1971
From the 1976 Earth Tour, “Moonshadow”
Since it’s such a great tune, here’s another recent live performance with the whole audience singing ALL the lyrics along with Yusuf! “Moonshadow.”
In a final salute to "Teaser and the Firecat," here's Cat during the 1976 Earth Tour, the last one before he retired, doing a great live performance of "The Wind."
Cat and Carly Simon had a great love going back then. Here’s one of the songs Carly Simon wrote about her love for Cat! For your enjoyment, here she is live in 1987 at Martha’s Vineyard doing “Anticipation.”
Here’s another acoustic version of Carly doing "Anticipation.”
Here’s the original studio version of Cat's song to Carly on the album “Catch Bull at Four,” "Sweet Scarlet.”
From the soundtrack of one of my favorite movies, “Harold and Maude,” starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort, the uplifting "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” (I couldn’t find any performances, but the movie clips are great!)
Originally on "Tea For the Tillerman," here's a great live performance in 2007 from "Yusuf's Cafe Sessions" of the best known song from the movie, "Where Do the Children Play?"
Also from the “Café Sessions” (but not in the movie), a song we can’t get enough of!
As an aside, he was there at the 2010 Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity in DC, where he did "Peace Train" as part of a running gag along with Ozzy Osbourne doing his "Crazy Train" and the O'Jays doing "Love Train." Hilarious!
From the album “Buddha and the Chocolate Box” a great live performance from the 1976 Earth Tour of "Oh Very Young.”
For our final clip from his career as Cat Stevens, and entire 1 hour 17 minute show! Cat Stevens Live at Williamsburg, VA in 1976
From his post-pop career:
The original studio version of "Tala'a Al-Badru Alayna.”
Here’s a live performance of “The Wind East and West.”
Here’s the original studio version of a song about the 2004 tsunami. Proceeds go to help orphans in Banda Aceh.
From the 2006 Nobel Concert, from his 2006 album “An Other Cup,”
From the 2009 “Roadsinger” album,
Also from that album, here's Yusuf in the original music video for “Thinking ‘Bout You.”
To learn more about this wonderful man and the good he's doing, please check out Yusufislam.com (It currently seems to be in a state of reconstruction, but it links to all the social media sites for Yusuf.) I’ll also take this space to remind those who never heard that factually, it has been legally proved that he never supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, is openly against vigilantism, and is not sexist. He is a Man of Peace.
Thanks for everything, Yusuf. We certainly need more "men of peace" in our world, and goodwill ambassadors that remind us that there is only one race - the human race - and that the children are the hope for our future. Aum and blessings for all you've done, all you do, and all you will do. As-Salāmu `Alaykum, my Brother.
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson